Latest development in the Post Office proceedings: Appellants permitted to argue Category 2 abuse of process

22 Jan 2021

In 2020 the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal forty one cases in which sub postmasters and mistresses and other Post Office employees were convicted of offences of false accounting, theft and fraud. The prosecutions were brought by the respondent, the Post Office (now Post Office Limited), and in most cases relied on records kept by the Post Office’s Horizon accounting system.

The reliability of Horizon has subsequently been called into question, and adverse findings were made by Fraser J in civil litigation, comprising a group action in which hundreds of former Post Office employees were the claimants. The appeals are due to be heard in March 2021. In the meantime, the Court issued a direction requiring the parties to make submissions relating to the question of whether the appellants should be permitted to argue a case of category 2 abuse of process (that the criminal proceedings were an affront to the conscience of the Court) in support of their appeals, category 1 abuse (that the appellants could not have had a fair trial) being unopposed by the Post Office in the majority of cases.

Lisa Busch QC and Dr Sam Fowles acted for the sole three appellants who argued that they should be permitted to argue category 2, consistently with the over-riding objective and in the interests of justice. The Court agreed in a ruling handed down on 15th January 2021 (In the matter of a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission between Hamilton and Others v Post Office Limited [2021] EWCA Crim 21), an important decision of principle and in practice in this high-profile ongoing case.

The judgment can be found HERE.